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Curbing our gang, graffiti problem
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Down the canal bank on warning signs or on residential neighborhood sound walls, gang graffiti continues to pop up in all places. Examples appearing in recent weeks have included death threats against Ceres police officers following the arrest of members of the Parklawn Boys gang for residential burglary.

Nasty and ugly markings mar our street vistas in any month of the year as punks raised without respect property or life continue to mark up others' territory like some mangy dog urinating on a fire hydrant.

I believe the community needs to shoulder the blame for allowing things to get out of hand; but it also has the collective power to solve the problem.

Smug gang members get satisfaction, for example, in seeing their "work" prominently displayed and yet we reward them by allowing it to be displayed for days without painting it over.

Education, as a whole, has failed to stress to our youth that they can use their life's energy for good or for evil and that ultimately success and money in life come to those who are diligent and work hard. Because we haven't linked the "why" of education to the real-life application, many kids are checking out and opting for a darker side of life.

Realistically, though, it's the breakdown of the American family and a lack of values that have pushed kids in the direction of "substitute" families (gangs) as most seek a sense of belonging. Any of us should be able to see how the lack of love, structure and discipline in a household leads to negative behaviors as hurting people in turn seek to inflict hurt on others.

Ceres and other local police departments try to do what they can when they apprehend juvenile offenders when caught but honestly the system isn't as strict as it could be. Kid glove treatment is not working nor will it ever. Embarrassment, loss of privilege and a high personal cost need to be part of the process to correct the ways of those who feel they have a liberty to damage my property and yours.

Neighbors, too, must be diligent about calling police when they see suspicious behavior such as kids congregating on darkened street corners or teens walking freely after curfew. Reporting such suspicions, however, tends to not occur because of our fear that we're bothering police or likely due to our collective apathy and desensitity to graffiti. Instead we all must realize that the acceptance of one act of vandalism will only encourage the next. Don't just blame the vandal for the problem but blame yourself when you fail to paint over your fence or fail to call police when you see a crime. General acceptance of anything negative - whether it be trash or graffiti or scattered abandoned shopping carts - often means we don't get involved and that's part of the problem. Equate non-action with the same as embracing the troublemaker, the vandal, the criminal.

In no way should we accept that graffiti must be a part of our landscape. What we need to keep in mind is that the appearance of a community has great bearing on the direction of its future. A community that tolerates spray-paintings made by societal rejects and underachievers often unwittingly chases away out-of-town investors and would-be businesses. Nice looking communities, by contrast, are a reflection of a people who high a higher standard and care about what goes on within its jurisdiction - one worthy of investments of millions.

To stay on top of the misdeeds of our young people should be our community goal. You and I need to care and get involved and hold our neighbors to the same standard. Only then will we be able to either subdue their activities or chase them to area that doesn't care. Unruly people will always feel free to do business in an area where they'll get away with it so let's hope Ceres and Modesto gets serious its very real gang and graffiti problem.

How do you feel? Let Jeff know at